I want to write about some colors I saw. I want to paint them down, blue and green and white and not have them be words at all. I want the leaves to be so intensely deep dark green and the sky to still be sunny blue and the clouds to be so white that they are pretending it is not dusk. I want to be sitting again on the rail of the deck again, eyes brimming, looking at the way the sunlight shines on the sky but not on the forest. I want everyone to see what I have seen.
When I tell friends about the way the sun shone on the sky, the way the clouds billowed white and puffy, the way that night had settled over the forest and the way the deep green had flowed into my blood, they nod and make approving sounds inside their mouths. Beautiful, they say. Must have been beautiful. And it was beautiful, of course. But thatís not enough. Because thatís just an adjective. And so is blue, and so is green, and so is intense, and so is everything else.
The colors resist my writing. I say to a friend, it was like someone spilled ink. Had she been there maybe she would say in reply, not ink, more like velvet. And we would both be right. Or both be wrong. Or something. But I cannot stop writing about the blue and green and white that I saw, I cannot stop rephrasing and editing and revising my words until they approach, at least, a meager representation.
Sherwood Anderson tells me that I can create something so complete that it resists such replication. He was left alone one afternoon with little tins of paints, tiny buckets of colors, and saw a painting before it began. He saw the red before it turned into a barn. He saw the pool of brown before it overflowed into a wide rubbly path. He saw the white and the black before they were textured and speckled cows. He saw the gray only hours before it hardened into the stone of a wall.
Anderson saw Gertrude Stein as the painter who leaves her colors out for someone to see. He understood why Stein had lain out her words, refusing to make them into something that makes sense like two cows on their way to a barn. Stein didnít want to mix her words into a word-picture. She wanted every word to have its chance, to be seen in its own little tin that lay next to other little tins.
And so Sherwood Anderson tells me that I can create something so complete that it resists replication. Gertrude Stein does too. Words need not replicate, for instance, the colors of a certain evening in Mexico. A word can conjure up images of equal beauty, but the beauty gets to start within the word, not within the remembered image. I do not need to frantically drive around description, I do not need to write furious, frustrated that no one but me saw the colors that night. Instead I can begin within the words. I can rearrange my tins of color so that you may see something with such beauty. You may not see the colors that I saw. But you will see words that will give you something of your own to have.